Short Docs

'He was like a character from an old adventure novel': The story of Algonquin Park's last fishing guide

The Last Guide’ is a portrait of a man who dedicated his life to the outdoors

The Last Guide' is a portrait of a man who dedicated his life to the outdoors

Kuiack's life and work inspired two novels that earned him modest fame, and made him a draw for tourists in search of his famous shore lunches. (Wayne Simpson)

Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most iconic and breathtaking landscapes in Canada. Visitors marvel at its natural beauty: trees as far as you can see, fabulous fall colours, the call of the loon as early morning mist rises off the lakes. What might go unnoticed, however, is the people who have shaped and influenced the park's identity. 

If you've spent enough time in Algonquin Park, chances are you've heard the name Frank Kuiack — maybe more than once. 

If you were lucky enough to cross paths with Frank while he was still roaming the park, you might have learned a thing or two about fishing. Or perhaps he pointed out a hidden trail or taught you how to make wintergreen tea. 

Frank was born in the 1930s, just outside Algonquin Park. He began guiding fishermen around the area when he was eight years old and never stopped — until the day he was no longer able to get into a canoe. Over time, Frank's talent for catching fish became something of a legend; people travelled from all around the world just to have him lead them through the park and enjoy one of his famous shore lunches – featuring fish caught that very morning. 

Frank was like a character from an old adventure novel who discovered hidden lakes, built portage trails and secret campsites and planted canoes all over Algonquin. Many of the trails he originally cut have become permanent fixtures throughout the park.

The legendary life of an Algonquin legend | The Last Guide

5 months ago
Duration 1:43
Algonquin's last fishing guide, Frank was like a character from an old adventure novel who discovered hidden lakes, built portage trails and secret campsites and planted canoes all over Algonquin.

According to Frank, the park used to have 140 traditional fishing guides. But ever since the turn of this century, he's been the lone survivor. He was the last guide left and he took great pride knowing that he carried the wisdom of traditional fishing and hunting practices, and an unrivalled understanding of Algonquin's diverse ecosystems. He saw it as a great responsibility:  Frank made it his mission on earth to pass his knowledge on to anyone willing to listen. 

Frank passed away in 2021. Today, his steel line fishing rod and oil-stained pack are displayed in the Algonquin Visitor Centre, alongside his hatchet. As much as Frank was invested in Algonquin Park and sharing its many wonders, his contributions to the park are also part of what make Algonquin special. 

Until his final days, Frank would still pull his canoe out onto the water, cast his line, and smile like an 8 year old who just caught his first fish. 

Aidan Cheeatow, Executive Producer, The Last Guide

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now